Dear Maria,

I live in a pet-friendly apartment complex and I always clean up my dog’s waste. Several of my neighbors do not, even though there are signs posted throughout the complex reminding people to pick up after their dogs. I don’t want to alienate my neighbors by pointing out when they don’t “use a bag,” but I also don’t want to have to tip-toe through the grass to avoid their dog’s poop. What’s the best way to handle this situation?

Signed,

It’s a Poopy Problem

Dear Poopy Problem,

This question has plagued humanity for at least 15,000 years since these wonderful pets were first domesticated! I share your disgust, as our neighborhood has lots of pets with a few owners who abandon the leavings on the sidewalk or grass. One day, I was walking our dog and as I cleaned up after him, my neighbor came out to thank me! (He used positive reinforcement, an effective method our dog trainer taught us!)

The sun rose over the house behind our yard. Here's Shannon on his version of Pride Rock.

The sun rose over the house behind our yard. Here’s Shannon in a more relaxed position!

This is a sticky situation, and I’m not sure there’s a solution. Maybe there’s a metaphor for life here: Ultimately, we can only take care of our own [dog’s] s***. We tiptoe around those who are too caught up in their own mess to see how it’s affecting others. Great things are going on around the smelly stuff, though. One early morning, I took our dog out to do his thing. Our yard sits on a slight hill and faces east. As he squatted, a gorgeous sunrise was taking place over my shoulder, but I was staring at him, wishing he’d hurry up. The light caught my eye, and I looked up in time to take in the sky’s beauty. He was quite capable of finishing his business without my surveillance. In his own way, he taught me a lesson then: Do I focus on the messes of life, and miss out on what’s beautiful and good?

Okay, philosophical musing aside…let’s talk practical tactics. Frankly, I’m stumped. You could sigh loudly when you catch someone leaving poop in the yard, but there’s something very crabby-passive-aggressive-ugly about that. Try the positive reinforcement route and give treats to those who clean up. Perhaps you could persuade the apartment management to put up some of those biodegradable bag dispensers? They may balk at the extra expense and work, so you could petition or survey your neighbors to make your case. These tactics make you the self-appointed Poop Police, though, so it’s up to you to decide how hard you want to work for poop-free common ground. Any time you’re feeling blue about the situation, you might hum a sweet tune that goes a little like this:

Dear Readers: any suggestions for our good neighbor with the poopy problem? Please comment below!